Coriander: Belgium’s Secret Spice

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  • February 7, 2017
Coriander Allagash

One oft-used spice in Belgian-style beer is a plant called coriander. The first question that likely comes to mind is: what is coriander? And coming in a close second: why put it in beer?

Coriander a.k.a. cilantro a.k.a. chinese parsley is—when mature—a leafy, green herb. Many of you may know the polarizing flavor of fresh cilantro leaves: either soapy or delicious, depending on who you ask. Coriander seeds, however, hold an entirely different flavor. Technically a dried fruit, coriander seeds hold a pleasantly citrus-filled, fruity aroma. As far back as the Middle Ages, Belgian brewers imported and brewed with coriander in its seed form. Currently, it’s most popularly used in Belgian White (or wit) beers—like Allagash White. Beyond white beers, we found that its round, fruity flavors also made an excellent addition to our Hoppy Table Beer.

On the hoppy front, coriander and certain hops actually share an aromatic compound. This compound is known as linalool (bonus challenge: try to say linalool without sounding like you’ve had a couple). The citrus and fruit notes of linalool pair exceptionally with very citrus-forward hops like Comet and Azacca. And while it’s a key compound in coriander, Linalool is nowhere near the only flavor available in this seed. Coriander also holds hints of various other flavors including pine, and even mint (though in tiny amounts). This variety of flavors is why this particular spice tends to blend so well with beer. Ultimately, though, the key to spicing a beer is restraint.

As Karl, our sensory manager, puts it, “our aim is to spice the beer below recognition, but above a detectable level.” What that means to the average beer drinker is that when you sip Hoppy Table Beer, we don’t want you to say “wow! Coriander!” We do want you to say, “there’s something going on in this beer that I can’t put my finger on. And I like it.”

Hoppy Table Beer

“This gives the beer depth,” Karl explains. “If the coriander wasn’t there, you wouldn’t necessarily miss it. But the beer is so much better—rounder—when it’s there.”

We couldn’t agree more.

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